12 ways to spring back into shape

W

hether you let your fitness slide or are starting from scratch, here’s how to jump-start a new routine:

1. Get a physical

Whether you’re trying a new type of workout or coming back from an exercise hiatus, it’s a good idea to visit your doctor before you begin. You might have developed risk factors since your last visit or have an undiagnosed genetic condition that could be aggravated by certain types of exercise.

“It’s good to know the blueprint of your body,” said personal trainer Owen McKibben.

2. Set a goal

Setting a specific goal is a proven motivation booster — but don’t make it about weight loss.

“To get started, it’s usually better to set a behavior goal, like the number of times a week you’re going to work out,” said New York City-based personal trainer Steve Ettinger.

Actions are within your realm of control, unlike weight loss, which can be affected by a lot of things, like stress and hormones.

Focusing on healthy behaviors instead of a number on the scale also will make you less likely to resort to drastic measures like a crash diet, Ettinger said.

3. Start slow

Charging back into a full fitness schedule before you’re ready can be disastrous — not only for your body, which can be easily injured, but also for your morale.

“Enthusiasm is good, but it has to be tempered with wisdom,” McKibben said.

For example, if you’d like to run to get in shape, ease back into your routine with shorter, slower jogs, or even some run/walk intervals. And don’t forget resistance training.

4. Head outdoors

If the thought of slogging away on a treadmill is what kept you from the gym all winter, think of exercise as your excuse to get outside and enjoy some fresh air.

“It makes exercise more enjoyable because you’re just so excited to see the sun again,” Ettinger said.

On cold, rainy days, it’s also a way to develop the type of thick skin that will keep you active through next winter.

5. Join a gym

Although you might be doing most of your workouts outside, the warmer months are a great time to reactivate your gym membership.

Having access to group fitness classes might inspire you to schedule some all-important resistance training sessions. Best of all, if you join a health club with amenities like a pool or sauna, you’ll be able to treat your body to some rest and recovery even after hard outdoor workouts.

6. Make like-minded friends

Joining a fitness group not only makes exercising more fun, it also make it harder to bail on your workout.

“With a group, you have built-in accountability,” Ettinger said. “Ideally, you’ll make friends in the group who are going to keep you on track, and you’ll do the same for them.”

7. Play a sport

A great way to get fit is to make fitness fun, and what’s more fun that playing a team sport?

“Team sports are all about camaraderie, and there is nothing like building a friendship over a sport to get you and keep you motivated,” said Suzanne Bowen, a trainer. “You might be tempted to not go to a gym, but when your team is there to play softball with you it’s like a two for one.”

8. Treat yourself

Before you get started, reward yourself with a fitness item you’re going to want to wear or use.

Buying a new item is motivating because it feels like a fresh start, Bowen said. Plus, you can think of the item as a health investment you won’t want to go to waste.

9. Buy new shoes

The sneakers that have been sitting in your closet all winter aren’t just drab — they could be dangerous.

“Shoes need to support your feet and body and be appropriate for the sport,” Bowen said.

If you put 300-500 miles on your kicks last year, they probably need to be replaced.

10. Get support

No matter how determined you are to get back in shape, there will likely come a day where you slip up, want to give up or just feel fatigued and unmotivated. Being able to check in with someone who is following your progress or also trying to get fit, can help you stay on track.

11. Incorporate intervals

When it comes to getting fit fast, intervals are the gold standard. Not only do they cut your workout time down, but they also burn fat and boost your cardiovascular fitness faster than steady-pace workouts.

Incorporate intervals into any workout that revs your heart rate.

12. Listen to your body

“It’s always important to listen to your body when you work out, but especially after taking some time off,” Bowen said. “Watch out for breathlessness, joint pain, and over-stretching or overusing your lower back. If you feel yourself straining, back off and begin again when you feel ready.”

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